If you missed Palm’s keynote yesterday, be sure to check out TreoCentral’s coverage of all things Palm, Pre, and webOS! To quickly recap: Palm held their keynote showcasing their new device and platform. Here are Android Central's impressions on the events.

When word started spreading about a new Palm device and the Nova OS, we at Android Central ignored it—mostly because we only focus on Android happenings—but also because in recent years Palm has been just trudging along, barely innovating, and minimally surviving that it didn’t warrant any extra attention. Our honest expectations of the Palm keynote? Announce a barely evolutionary device with another limited OS. Miss crucial opportunity. Everyone walks away disappointed. And then fade to obscurity.

Read on to see what happened and what Android Central thinks?

Suffice to say, that didn’t happen. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Instead of the predicted eulogy of a keynote, we got a stunning showcase of innovation. Palm hit it out the proverbial ballpark and the industry just got a jolt sent through every platform: Android isn’t polished enough. iPhone is too limited. Blackberry is outdated. Windows Mobile isn’t as user friendly. Announcement: The smartphone market just gained a shiny, trusted & capable competitor. Welcome back to the mix, Palm.

But as surprised and as blown away as we were after the keynote (and trust us, we’re still thinking about it) the fact of the matter is: the Palm Pre doesn’t exist yet. It’s certainly some great ideas packed in sleek looking devices but it’s as good as vaporware on prototypes (okay maybe not that bad). But honestly, we don’t know when it’ll release, how good it’ll really be, how much it’ll cost, etc.

What if the Pre retails at $499? What if Sprint bleeds so much money that they’ll no longer be able to support it? What if there are more hardware cracking issues? What if webOS is buggy? There are still a ton of questions still left about stability, development, execution and everything. We know it looks good, we don’t know if it’ll actually be good. Yes, Palm showcased a great product yesterday. But it didn’t debut it and it didn’t seem like they were anywhere near ready to debut it. It re-instills faith in the Palm faithful but should it stop you in believing in the Android movement? Definitely, no.

Whenever the Palm Pre releases, Android will have that much time to get better. If it’s 3 months down the line, the Cupcake update would be on our G1 and we’ll have countless third party apps. 6 months? 9 months? We’ll be on Android’s first birthday cake. Can you imagine the advancements and third party apps we’ll get before the Pre even releases? Yeah, me neither. The Palm Pre simply challenges Android to get better and Android can certainly handle that.

The point is, yes, Palm announced a great product and platform in their keynote, but the battle for smartphone supremacy doesn’t end there. This marks the beginning—it starts here. The keynote was a breath of fresh air in a slowly suffocating industry. But I’d worry more about Windows Mobile and Blackberry than I would Android. Android still has a desktop class operating system behind it, a growing community that develops innovative third party apps, the promise of multiple form factors, and of course, the open sourceness of it all.

So as impressed as we were with Palm, we’re only excited about using it in the Smartphone Round Robin 2009—not to replace our G1's with. We still think the safest and best horse to bet on in this Smartphone Race is, and will always be, Android.

What did you guys think about the Palm Pre?

 

Reader comments

Android Central on the Palm Pre, webOS, and Sprint

30 Comments

@matt Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Palm announce that there would be an SDK released, and one with the same development tools that Palm used to design its own apps for the Pre? Or is it the fact that it's based on common web languages as opposed to a proper programming platform that's keeping you skeptical? I guess I can see your point there, but I still think Palm's overall approach to the Pre is innovative and promising, if not downright impressive.

But yeah, still totally more psyched about the future possibilities of Android (and the hope that they'll release a kick-ass piece of hardware for the G2. I mean c'mon, even Palm got it right with the Pre. I want a sexy Google phone damnit!). =D

Okay, that looks interesting. The last Palm I had was the IIIc color, this one is 10 lifetimes ahead of that one. But do you think, maybe, they could have thought up a name better than Pre? Come on, maybe they are calling it Pre because it functions like a pre alpha or pre beta quality device. On top of that launching it on the Sprint network, come on, Sprint is bleeding money so badly that they can only afford black and white TV commercials. But the screenshots of the Pre that I've seen are beautiful. My 2 cents.

@Kontra Very good article, if not slightly slanted, but good nonetheless. All his arguments are valid and enumerate Pre's uphill climb. But when you factor in Android and its reach the picture gets gloomier. I agree with the article that they're trying to look attractive for a buyout. The company I see taking the bait is Microsoft. Windows Mobile is tired and old. And depending on how far along they are with WM 7 will have a bearing on if they want to go that route. But we can't forget: "Microsoft doesn't innovate, they assimilate" :-)

I have an Iphone now and The Palm Pre is a lot smaller!!!!!! than I initially thought it would be.

A good size comparison would be an iPod classic with a big hard drive. In terms of thickness, it's definitely not as thin as the iPhone, or even the bold, but it is an acceptable size considering it's a slider.

I really like it!!!

@Tallbruva That was my initial point. I was a bit confused to see some commentors on Engadget saying, "This will kill Android!!" Assuming WebOS delivers on its promise, Android will still only be a Synergy app and pretty theme away from matching it. That's why I don't see WebOS as a big threat to Android.

The pre hardware is really nice. It is very much like the htc touch dual, only with a full qwerty rather than a 20 key. The software looks really nice, however it doesn't stack up to Android in my opinion. It is really pretty and shiny, and I have no doubt that palm has built a really nice interface on top of the o.s. My main issue is that palm is making the same mistake that apple initally made with the iphone. "Web-Apps" wft? Didn't they learn from the outcry against the the iphone for doing the same exact thing ? If they came out with an sdk, this device would be a lot more interesting, but like you said, when the webos starts to develop, android will be maturing, and realizing the full potential for android. I wish that google had done a better job of making some new hardware announcements or released cupcake to mitigate the significance of the pre announcements, but all in all i'd say that i am still waiting for nicer hardware on a android device rather than flocking to the pre..

I am glad to see Palm back to life though... maybe one day they'll build that pretty interface on top of android :)

@ matt They are not web apps. The code are web standards the apps run natively on the phone & there is no iPhone lockdown on the App developers.

I'm sorry, but this looks like a game changer to me. It also looks like it works better than Android at the moment.

The only potential problems i see are horrid battery life, buggy OS or lack of developer support.

I am a Sprint customer and I wll buy this when it releases unless it receives horrible reviews (like the BB Storm)or Sprint/T-mobile announces a serious Android offering before the Pre goes on sale.

I have to agree with PHug, this device seems like a serious game changer to me. I've always liked the Palm theory of things, and finally they seem to have put that to good use. Maybe there will be some bugs with this v.1, but once they sort those out and come out with the GSM version, I bet sales will be through the roof.

@PHug Call it what you want to call it, it's an interpreted scripting language, with an api to access some of the eyecandy of the device. I hope they prove me wrong, but I don't see 'real' apps coming to this platform until they release a proper sdk.

This is almost exactly what apple tried to pull with the first release of the iphone... it can run 'web apps,' and apple released an api so that you could customize a website to look like and iphone app.... i am talking pre app store...

I like the device, don't get me wrong.... I can't wait to try one out.. but I am more excited about android because the platform is more expandable because google released an sdk from day one.

Seems to me the gadget fans are overreacting a tad. A better-than-expected presentation, to be sure, but now that Palm has (finally) shown their hand they have to deliver. The Pre didn't look all that snappy in the hands-on demo video (even with just the basic apps), and it was not a good sign that they had to switch devices half-way through because of low battery. Nor could they answer some of the hard questions. The Pre, as good as it looks at first glance, has a ways to go before it is ready for competition.

Then there are the nagging problems that Palm has the worst reliability in the smartphone industry and Sprint has the worst customer satisfaction among carriers. Both companies have lost a lot of customers recently. Add to that Palm's confusing product line that now has 3 different operating systems and the Pre is far from a "game changer." A game energizer, perhaps.

Make no mistake, it is good to have Palm back in the game. Realistically, though, the Pre if successful is only the beginning of a long climb out of a hole at a time when the world economy is in shambles. Palm will be doing well to bring the Pre to market, sell enough units to stay in business, and influence the larger smartphone industry towards better things. Good luck to them.

I think all the hardware discussion is useless. Yes the G1 is one of the ugliest smartphones I've seen so far. But I don't care. Yes the palm pre looks great. But I don't care. In the end its the plattform. And its the plattform that Android is best positioned with. Having a hole linux under its cover its possible to run Android just like on every piece of hardware one can imagine. In the end its on the hardware manufacturers to build a nice(er) case around it.

It's on us to make Android the best OS avaiable. I would have liked to hear more about palm pres OS. I've read it also build on top of linux. And the apps seem to make use of webkit just like the browser does. The most confusing thing I read was that apps could be build using javascript+html+css. But what I didn't find are specifications, SDK information and stuff. Thats what i'd like to compare against android.

@Ryan, yes it's the web apps that have me skeptical.

@Jakob, The palm webos is linux based as well...

I am really excited for palm, but I don't think that this is my next device... I think that android running on something like the touch hd hardware will look as good...

Another thing I was wondering about the Pre is the use of multi-touch features including zoom. There has been speculation that the reason Android does not have multi-touch is that Apple has extensive patents. I can live without it but it sure would be nice. How does Palm get around the patents? I am surprised no one asked the Palm execs about that although I doubt they would answer directly. We'll know soon enough based on Apple's reaction.

The "pre hardware"? Last time I heard, it does not exist. lol. I'd just like to get some more functionality out of my TX, that's all...

Excellent article, Casey! I fully agree: the entire smartphone competition is a an all new starting point. I hope that Android can "borrow" some of these UI innovations from Palm

Palm's announcement was the most exciting smartphone introduction I've seen since the original iPhone. The only disappointment I had was that it wasn't available already, haha.

Hm... there're so many exciting new mobile platforms. But Android still stands out because it's open. If we want, we could bring this functionality to Android.

Well, at least this explains why Sprint thumbed its nose at an Android powered phone (and did so with such impunity). They knew they were working out a deal with Palm. Honestly, I can't say I blame them. Now each of the Big 4 have a signature phone: T-Mobile + G1, Verizon + Storm, ATT + iPhone. Now Sprint + Pre.

If T-Mobile stays true to form, its customers will never see a Palm Pre. Just checked their site and they don't offer any Palm devices.

iPhone thew down the gauntlet. Android picked it up. Now Pre looks like its running away with it. Wonder what Windows Mobile 7 will look like.

"Pre's introduction, website, technology packaging, industrial design, UI, product naming and positioning...down to the flow of its CES presentation were pointedly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Apple-like. Of all the current iPhone competitors, Pre clearly captures the "soul" of the iPhone as much as any product not-from-Cupertino can. Whatever Pre "borrows" from the iPhone, it does so not with the brazen indifference of recent iPhone-killers, but with care and purpose."

However:

"Palm is clearly late to iPhone's party. By the time the first Pre is sold, the iPhone will likely have 30 million users in 70+ countries, 15,000 apps, a huge developer and peripherals ecosystem, perhaps a third of the market share and 40% of smartphone revenues. And that's before the next generation iPhone device and OS are introduced."

I explored Pre's chances in:

Strategic shortcomings of Pre in the post-iPhone era

First, let me say that I've never used any smartphone, much less on running Android; this is all speculation.

In order to truly compare WebOS with other offerings like Android, you have to largely ignore the hardware and UI. Both of the those can evolve relatively quickly, especially in the case of an open source OS like Android. So that leaves us to compare the functionality of each OS.

My impression is that WebOS succeeds in two areas: Synergy and multi-tasking. Syngery, if you haven't seen the video, allows the OS to pull contact data from all over the web and combine it intelligently. So you can have someone in your outlook contacts and on facebook; the duplicate data is ignored and what's left is a complete entry for that person. At the same time, it keeps track of where each piece of data comes from. This is, in my opinion, the future of how these devices will organize our personal information and is WebOS' "killer app."

Next we have multi-tasking. WebOS achieves this through a combination of a "card-based" app management interface and unobtrusive notifications.

Now if you compare these functions to Android, all it really lacks is Synergy. You can already run multiple apps in Android as far as I know. All it needs is an efficient way for you to switch between apps and close them. It also already has a notification bar that does nearly everything the WebOS seems to do. As for Synergy, I think consumer demand will force it to come to every major OS.

In the end, Android has about 80% of what WebOS offers with the added bonus of being easily modified and updated by just about anyone or any company. So I'd say it will stay competitive in the long term.

@Serryl When you "compare the functionality of each OS" you see that Android spanks Pre like it stole something. Synergy is a very nice feature but aside from that, they didn't really show what else the OS can do. What features will the developers plug into to make useful and fun apps? They didn't say. The Android OS allows access to ALL the features of the OS: maps, contacts, GPS, etc. One can extend the functionality of the existing apps like contacts (in fact, someone could write a Synergy app for Android. Then Pre's best feature is no longer exclusive). When Android was released, they demonstrated the power of OpenGL so 3D rendering can be utilized. Pre pretty much focused on email and contacts. Don't get me wrong, the user experience on the Pre is outstanding and probably the closest thing to iPhone you'll find right now. But as an OS, they really haven't shown what makes WebOS's guts as pretty as it shell.

I'm more curious about the things we DIDN'T see. Like the syncing and desktop integration (assuming there is any) as one of the greatest strengths of the original Palms were their excellent syncing capabilities relative to the competition at that time.

I was actually very impressed with the Pre and as a Sprint customer it's currently at the top of my list of phones I'd be considering right now. But I think the only people who get a stiffy over multitouch on phones are iFanboys. It's nice to have for sure, but has to be one of the most overrated smartphone features of all time. Whenever I transition from an iPod Touch to my WM phone I never find myself missing it. The ease of use of the capacitive screen itself is FAR more important than multitouch IMO. And most platforms are moving to that now.

I think the keys are the cards metaphor, gestures, and notifications manager. I would love it if Android copied those things from the Pre. That's much more than just a pretty theme.